BARBECUED NEW YORK STRIP STEAKS
In 1958, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor housed a huge conglomerate of students world-wide. My room-mate, Barbara, had become friendly with Tatsu Hachiuma, a young man from Kobe, Japan. Uncomfortably formal and painfully shy, his guitar spoke for him and, as his lilting voice charmed us with love songs, we forgot we had grown up at war with his country. We knew little about him other than he was sent to America to separate him from a young dancer from the Nishikawa School of traditional Japanese Odori. Without knowledge of their caste system, it was impossible for us to understand why a ballet dancer was unacceptable to his family.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approached, we all prepared to return home to our families."I will miss you" Said Tatsu. " Where are you going?" I asked. "I'll stay here" He answered. "Have you ever been to a Thanksgiving dinner?" "I' ve never been invited to an American home". He had been at the university almost three years.
Unsure of my parent's reaction, I approached them cautiously. Before I could extol Tatsu's virtues, Mother told me of their plans to visit Japan in the spring. How lovely it would be to meet a typical Japanese family! I brought Tatsu home for the weekend. With a bow akin to genuflection, he presented Mother with a hand-carved wood-cut sent as a gift of appreciation from his mother. Tatsu proudly declared he had not eaten lunch for a whole month to pay for the frame.
When my parents arrived in Kobe, they were ushered into a Rolls Royce by an entourage who escorted them to the Hachiuma estate. Tatsu's mother was garbed in traditional costume of the Imperial Court. Around her waist was a heko-obi, or sash of silk brocade in the A Nishijin-ori style of Kyoto, and pressed against her breast in the obi was a large emerald. When my Mother complimented its beauty, the interpreter explained, A It is a poor replacement for the diamond the Japanese military took from me during the war. They dined amidst antiques from the Ming Dynasty on celadon china from the Tang Dynasty and spoke of their families through the interpreter. It marked the beginning of a family friendship that lasted forty years. The following day they were taken on a tour to the art museum and Kyoto shipyards, followed by a visit to one of Japan's leading pearl factories - all of which were owned by the Hachiuma family.
Tatsu returned to Japan when his father died. His eldest brother, Hiroshi, assumed his position as head of the family according to tradition. He legally adopted the beautiful dancer, elevating her position to equal that of Tatsu so they could be married with honor.
It was ten years before I saw Tatsu again. Giancarlo Danti, the manager of our Florence office, was our house guest. Mid-afternoon, my husband, Buddy, phoned to say that a business associate from Germany was in town and would join us for dinner. Twenty minutes later I received a call from Tatsu, who was between planes on his way to South America. I immediately insisted that he join us for dinner. There was no time to prepare an elaborate menu, and it was necessary for the cuisine to be universally acceptable. Jumbo shrimp (my favorite oxymoron), America's strip steaks Europeans refer to as A the New York, (almost comparable to Kobe beef), and my rendition of Crêpes Suzette followed by espresso and fresh fruit would be harmonious to all. The harmony of our three unlikely guests never occurred to me.
Giancarlo was first to arrive; then the German industrialist. Giancarlo's demeanor froze. Several minutes later Tatsu entered. I introduced him to the others and retreated to the kitchen. When I returned, Tatsu was sitting straight in his chair staring into space. The German was intent on a bird outside the window, and Giancarlo was studying a spot on the ceiling. At that moment Buddy arrived. Appraising the scenario, he announced, A It's a privilege to welcome the entire Axis into our home. Giancarlo reprimanded him sharply with, A Booody, My God!, and laughed out loud. The German said, A Vot a joke! Finally, Tatsu, who had grown into an elegant, confident man, stood up and made his toast to A .....a new world where we work together for peace and prosperity. The war was finally over.
BARBECUED NEW YORK STRIP STEAKS
Yield: 6 Servings
6 - 12 ounce New York cut strip steaks
2 cup whole black peppercorns
2 cup Dijon mustard
2 cup extra virgin olive oil
||Place peppercorns into a bag and pound with the back of a frying pan or a heavy mallet until coarse. Pour onto a plate.
||Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard over both sides of the steaks. Place the steaks lightly on the peppercorns, coating both sides. Pat the peppercorns in to adhere. Refrigerate 15 minutes or longer, covered.
||Brush one side of the steak with oil. Set it over gas or charcoal until done on one side. Brush the other side and turn the steak. Brush the cooked side lightly with a bit more oil.
|NOTE: To ensure a perfectly cooked steak, press the top with your finger or the flat side of a knife or back of a fork. A rare steak will feel spongy and bounce back. Medium steak will feel firmer to the touch, but still retain some resiliency. When well-done, the meat will be hard to the touch.